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Duterte wants the proposed baselines legislation reviewed

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked his staff to examine retired Supreme Court associate judge Francis Jardeleza’s suggestion to draft a new baselines statute to enforce the arbitral ruling the Philippines received in its West Philippine Sea (WPS) conflicts with China.

This comes after Jardeleza sent Duterte a letter on June 5 requesting him to declare as urgent the proposal that aims to alter Republic Act (RA) 9522, a statute that defines the Philippines’ territorial maritime baselines.

When questioned about Duterte’s reaction to Jardeleza’s letter, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stated, “He immediately requested that it be put to comprehensive staff work and he was extremely thankful of the proposal.”

Jardeleza said on Monday that his proposed bill, dubbed the “Philippine Nautical Features of the West Philippine Sea Act,” intends to describe and define maritime features in the WPS that the Philippines claims or occupies.

WPS has at least 100 marine features, 25 of which are claimed to be rocks or high tide characteristics that create a territorial sea and a contiguous zone, according to the draft legislation.

Dr. Melissa Loja and Professor Romel Bagares, both international law professors, supported Jardeleza in crafting the legislation.

The measure should be designated as urgent, he added, since it “is the most cost-effective and yet most effective method of executing the Arbitral Award and reinforcing our territory and maritime rights” in WPS.

One of the most important provisions in the proposed new baselines law states that the Philippines has sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, as appropriate, over the following identified maritime features in WPS, without prejudice to future discoveries or establishments of such features as part of Philippine sovereignty or jurisdiction.

Protests are predicted in China.

Before reaching a judgment on the proposed revisions to RA 9522, Roque said Duterte will wait for the legal office of the Office of the Executive Secretary’s proposal.

He said, “It’s simply a willingness to examine the issue.”

According to Roque, the Philippines expects China to react strongly to the new baselines legislation.

“Well, I anticipate the Chinese will object to various sections of this legislation, particularly in regard to our claim to islands inside the region that we’re claiming as ours,” he added.

If Duterte backs the planned action, though, the Philippines would be undeterred by China’s likely objection, Roque added.

“So, asahan naman natin iyan, but ano naman ang pakialam natin sa mga reaksiyon nila?” Basta tayo, mayroon tayong batas at hahayaan na natin ang isang international tribunal when the time comes to decide on kung sino talaga ang may superior claim doon sa mga isla na ibabahagi natin sa isang batas bilang kabahagi ng ating teritoryo We have a legislation, and we’ll let the international tribunal decide who has the greater claim to the islands that will be named in our baselines legislation as part of our territory when the time comes),” he added.

The Philippines won its case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands, on July 12, 2016, when the arbitration court decided that Beijing’s broad claims over practically the entire South China Sea are without legal substance.

China, on the other hand, has frequently disobeyed the PCA judgment.

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